Ben Scanlan has a very personal reason for running the TCS London Marathon for Home-Start UK. As a psychotherapist Ben has seen many clients struggle with issues from their childhood. When Ben’s wife Sara returned to work after having twins Ada and Flo, Ben felt overwhelmed.

Wanting to make sure he was the best dad he could possibly be, Ben sought out support from Home-Start. After experiencing the difference Home-Start had on his family, Ben firmly believes every family should have a Home-Start volunteer.

Ben tells us:

“So many of my clients have unresolved issues relating to their childhood. So, when I became a father, I wanted to make sure we were doing everything right to give our children the best start. But the very start to parenthood wasn’t easy. Sara had a difficult birth. While she was recovering I looked after the twins. They wouldn’t stop crying. As advised by the midwife, I was doing finger feeds every two hours. The reality of having babies was so much harder than I thought it would be.

Things eventually calmed down at home. My wife, Sara, and I were great as a double act, but when she returned to work after maternity leave things started to unravel. By then the twins were very active toddlers. From the moment they wake up to when they go to bed they’re on the go – constantly.

When you have twins, to manage on your own you’re always outnumbered. I recognised I was struggling. How do I get them to listen to me? How do I become more confident? I didn’t know how to entertain them or how to develop them – it felt quite overwhelming.

With lockdown we were together all the time, so I hadn’t learned how to cope on my own, I hadn’t needed to. Doubts were swirling around in my head and made so much worse with external pressures. My therapist died from Covid when the twins were just six weeks old. I still hadn’t processed his death fully. I have a history of depression, and, like my father, I’ve tried to end my own life.

I was scratching around trying to find any sort of help. Playgroups, coffee sessions – basically anything that may offer some relief. I’d joined a local WhatsApp group for dads, but it was more about poker nights, football and tools than conversations around the children.

At playgroups I stood out as a dad. I’d be praised for the most rudimentary things. Of course it was nice to hear, but it made me feel different and weird. It also felt pretty isolating.

While on the surface everything looked fine, I knew it wouldn’t take too much for me to go over the edge. At the same time in the back of my mind I was thinking - I’m a psychotherapist, I should know what I’m doing.

My wife came across Home-Start online and contacted them. Becca from Home-Start Southwark came to visit. Even that first visit was helpful. Suddenly I didn’t feel like I was totally on my own and winging it.

I was matched with Kristen, my Home-Start volunteer. With Kristen I feel like I have support which is non-judgemental. It’s entirely taken the pressure off Monday mornings. Kristen is really good at talking to the twins and showing interest in the most mundane things I’d typically tend to ignore. Watching Kristen has opened my eyes to a different way of engaging with them.

Every Monday morning we take them out for a walk. Kristen has Ada and I take Flo. We’ve also recently progressed to cooking and they’ve made shortbread together. It’s such a relief not to have to split my attention between the two of them. It also means they are a lot calmer, as am I. I know I’m in safe hands with Kristen. She has a lot of experience of twins – I’m her tenth twin family!

Home-Start has made my life so much easier. From my work with patients I know how much parents can get it wrong. I honestly think every family should be offered a Home-Start volunteer. The difference that would make to people, both now and also to future generations would be huge. Every family having Home-Start volunteer would make the world a better place.

Kristen said I’m the first dad she has supported. What’s that about? I can’t believe someone who has volunteered for ten years has not come across a dad. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to share my experience. I want to normalise dads asking and accepting help, and encourage dads to do the best for their children.

The London Marathon goes past my house so it felt right to take part to raise money for Home-Start, a charity that has done so much to help my own home. It will be a challenge, but the thought of all the other parents I’m helping Home-Start reach will push me forwards.

It helps that both the twins have learnt to say ‘daddy run’ so I’m getting in strength training running with them in their pram.

On the day I’ll be running with my friend Ali who’s fundraising off the back of seeing the impact Home-Start has had on me, and my wife Sara, Ada and Flo will be cheering me on. Please do cheer if you see any purple running vests, but especially one emblazoned with Ben on.”

Run, cycle or trek for Home-Start

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